Details of Thesis

Title Steel Magnolias’ Healing Journeys: Rural women speak of transforming their lives after the experience of childhood sexual assault
Author Allen-Kelly, Kandie
Institution Australian Catholic University
Date 2002
Abstract This thesis examines the construction of healing from childhood sexual assault from the perspective of adult women who had been sexually abused in their childhood years. The purpose of the study is to provide a space to hear the stories of rural women, and a forum to allow those stories to be shared with a wider audience. Its focus is on the women’s accounts of how their lives have been shaped by those experiences, what transformation has occurred, what people and processes have helped or hindered their journey and how they construct healing. It aims to develop an understanding of the notion of healing as reported by survivors themselves and does this though an emancipatory methodology underpinned by a critical post-modern framework. This study differs from previous studies in that its focus is specifically on the construction of healing and its participants are all rural women. The qualitative research methodology demonstrated in this thesis maintained a focus on the women’s narratives. It employed a unique method – a ten week discussion group in which the women chose the issues to be examined. The presentation of the data, maintains the commitment to the primacy of the women’s accounts. It utilises the themes they decided upon as well as those which emerged from the literature. The constructions of healing, which emerged from the sharing of stories, include healing as a non-linear process where individual strengths and transformation is acknowledged. The thesis argues that healing includes all aspects of survivors’ lives such as their relationships, parenting and engagement with their community. The implication for social work practice is that service provision to assist healing must focus on more than psychological and behavioural effects of childhood sexual assault. The method of collecting the women’s stories also has great potential for social work research because as the thesis argues, while generalisations cannot be made from the findings, the actual method has great value in giving voice to marginalised groups.
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